Just over 20 years ago, I arrived in the United States for the first time. Our family flew into San Francisco to spend 7 months in Davis, California. During my time in Davis, God showed me – perhaps for the first time – how he can use crossing cultures to mold us into His image and connect people with the gospel in unique ways.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to preach on the opening Sunday of Missions Week at Northpoint Evangelical Free Church in Corona, CA. I was also able to share about our ministry as part of their international potluck dinner on Sunday evening.
God’s grace was on full display throughout the whirlwind 36 hour trip as brothers and sisters lifted me up in prayer in DC, Arizona, Australia, and elsewhere. The invitation to preach came because Kenji, our Associate Pastor at Ambassador, grew up at the same church as Brent, the Missions & Outreach Pastor at Northpoint. It was particularly encouraging to know Brent had attended St Barnabas Broadway, an Anglican church near Sydney University where he did a study abroad semester 20+ years ago. Today, one of the associate ministers at that church was one of the students I coached on the high school debate team in Sydney15 years ago.
Most encouraging of all, was how God worked to lead me to the passage I preached from – Jonah 4. God has been working the themes of the sermon powerfully on my heart both last week and this week: that we respond to grace differently when it’s shown to others and that we must be people who seek to see others as God sees them.
In application, I offered the “how do you think of them first?” test and God has just broken me with it. The test is as follows: when you have conflict with that person at work, your spouse, your kid, the person who cuts you off in traffic – do you think of them first as “that jerk who…” or as precious to God and made in His image? Game changing perspective.
I was also challenged by this quote from Sinclair Ferguson reflecting on Jonah 4.
Do we care more, in the last analysis, about our own comforts and plans than about the evangelism of the world in our time? The statistics of our giving, or praying, or going in the cause of Christ throughout the earth provide embarrassing reading to the church.
The full sermon audio is below if you care to have a listen!